December 26th, 2014


A Very Merry Christmas

The winter storm for Christmas did not materialize.

The snow overnight for Christmas did not materialize.

The white Christmas morning did not materialize.

The rain and slush until 11am did not materialize.

It was not a life threatening choice to hit the Chicago relatives on a day trip there and back again. Hell, the sun came out as we were driving through Chicago.

We left around 9:30am EST and got back at 2:30am EST. I haven't seen the nephews in two years and likewise a big family dinner in Chicagoland, all due to my errant foot.

No real pressure to get there or leave at a particular time, so lots of leisurely conversations. And wonderful food. And pie... Mmm... pie... Also got to play with a 12-week old black kitten named Boris. No weight at all. No brains between the ears yet. Really loud purr. Mmm... kitten...

On the drive home, WBEZ in Chicago did an hour on the history of Handel's Messiah. Now there's a way to finish Christmas.

Gas in Allendale was somewhere around the $1.91.9/gallon level, but the Bravada needed to be filled up in Benton Harbor to avoid the Chicago gas prices on the round trip. But whether by design or error in the segments of the digital sign, the strange Mobil at M-45 and US-31 had regular at $1.77.9/gal Christmas morning. $1.77.9/gal? The national average was $2.39.9/gal.

Benton Harbor was $2.08.9/gal, but I routinely put premium in on longer trips, so paid $2.43.9/gal. In the Loop, gas was $2.87.9/gal, but that's big city pricing -- Oak Park IL, gas was $2.57.9/gal and $2.55.9/gal. On the way home the overly enthusiastic Low Fuel light came on an hour out from home. We decided to fill at a Mobil in Holland that has 24-hour pumps, even if the store is closed. Paid $1.95.9/gal for regular. We should have made it home and out to get gas in Allendale another day, but no point in running down to fumes.

Inexplicably, the strange Mobil at M-45 and US-31, which was closed in the wee hours, was now posting $1.75.9/gal! Did not take the time to verify the actual pump prices. Merry Christmas?

This was the easiest drive to/fro Chicago ever. Always weird to see so many empty parking lots, except for some cinemaplexes. The only real slowdown either way was the exit from I-290 East to I-90/94 was backed up around 10:30pm CST. Really? And Indiana has converted its cash toll lanes to these very slow one bill or coin at a time machines. And one jerk we passed had his brights on.

Otherwise clear sailing.

What a wonderful day!

Dr. Phil

UPDATE: Oh, and 38°F when we left, 38°F when got back. 40-50°F during the day...

Can You Tell If It's A Machine Or Turing?

We often do movies ON Thanksgiving. Usually not on Christmas Day. It didn't matter this year, we ended up on a little road trip. So, given the gorgeous blue sky afternoon forecast for Boxing Day, We decided to do our Christmas breakfast today and our Christmas dinner tomorrow. Because we really wanted to get to this movie.

We had a very leisurely morning, after getting to bed around 4am. From 9 to 11, we had WGVU-FM burbling on in the background -- they were rebroadcasting the annual Paul Winter Consort Winter Solstice Celebration from St. John the Devine in New York. Nice way to laze around. (grin)

Now at 8am there were a scattered bed of puffy pink tinged clouds against a pale blue sky. When we were coming home, there were pink and orange clouds chasing the setting sun. In between another lovely day near 50°F.

The movie theatre parking was packed. We had to go to our second alternative lot to find a handicapped spot. Even better, after getting our seats, they announced our show was sold out. Real mixed audience, with lots of people older than us.

The Imitation Game [PG-13]
Celebration North Theatre #3 3:00pm 2x$8.50

Some movies, like Titanic, you know what is going to happen. I know a bit about Alan Turing and the Enigma machines -- and what happened to Turing. So from my point of view it was nice that they didn't pull the punches, but they didn't dwell on some things either. The audience had some strong reactions to several things that Are Not Fair And We Don't Do It That Way Anymore. But... my hands are tied here. Yes, we won the war, but I don't want to talk specifics here.

The movie is based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges and stars the he-is-everywhere Benedict Cumberbatch. Also Keira Knightley, in another excellent period role, at a time when despite the Marie Curies of the world, women in science and math were easily ignored. WGN America's Manhattan addresses similar issues. We bounce between WW II, post-war and at school pre-war. Indeed, they filmed it at Bletchley Park and his school, Sherborne.

Enigma, of course, was the German code machine with a horrendous number of possible configurations, such that the Nazis considered it unbreakable. Having a stolen machine in British possession wasn't good enough. Without the settings, it was useless. Turing's genius was to come up with a machine that could sort through the possibilities.

I knew the machine was called the bombe, because of its ticking sound, but they didn't mention that in the movie. They didn't go too far in the codebreaking or the machine's function very far -- the story had much bigger fish to fry.

Some of the secondary characters are excellent -- the guy from MI6, played by a guy who always reminds me of Stanley Tucci, is particularly delicious. The film has some aspects in parallel with A Beautiful Mind and The Theory of Everything. But of these three geniuses, it is ironic that poor crippled Stephen Hawking ends up getting the best deal?

Wikipedia mentioned that Turing's recruiting crossword was reprinted by the New York Times on 27 November 2014 -- solve it in under ten minutes and perhaps you could have worked at Bletchley Park...


Trailers: Terminator Genesis we saw the other day -- great stuff. Then next November, there's some Ridley Scott HALO movie? The Second Best Exotic Hotel will, as most sequels do, not have the innocence of the first. But that doesn't mean we won't see it. Mordecai is the dumb art heist flick with a bumbling Johnny Depp and a very poised Gwyneth Paltrow. At only 100 minutes, unless I hear OUTSTANDING reviews, we'll pass. Much classier is The Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and a gorgeous Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was stolen by the Nazis. True story. But Selma is the class act here. I've heard very good things about this film -- and it is so rare to have something appropriate to see on MLK Day in January.

Dr. Phil

Self-Reporting Crime

I made a mistake today. I broke the law. It was one of those dumb things you do every couple of years. I came to a stop at the red light at 68th Avenue and Warner, and then, without thinking about it and seeing the road was clear, made a left turn on red. Now, usually I'm turning right, so a right turn red is possible and I do it all the time. But that's no excuse.

When I was in driver's ed, the first time I was behind the wheel, I approached a traffic light and executed a perfect stop. This after the previous student had blown through a light. Only one problem -- I stopped at a green light. Another time they put up a new stop sign on Sheldon in Houghton up near the new high school. Big signs and blinkers saying New Stop Sign. I noticed the stop signs... And still found myself driving straight through as I had for years. Automatics versus controlled.

We've seen people sitting at stop signs waiting for them to change...

So I felt bad. But... No one writes a check to the county and says, my bad, here's my fine. If a tree falls and no one is around, does it make a noise?

We don't self-report our mistakes. I'd like to think that if caught we'd admit our faults, but even then, we end up trying to make excuses. It's human nature.

This got me thinking.

Now... consider the following. Businesses complain all the time about overregulation. What they would prefer is self-regulation and self-reporting of violations. Consider how often that government penalties are paltry compared to big corporate revenues -- and they complain and try to get out or fail to pay those -- how well do you think this works?

Are corporations really people? Do people have the same rights as corporations?

Self-reporting doesn't work in general. It's why we have laws and regulations, and people to investigate and enforce.

Think about that the next time you blow through a stop sign.

Dr. Phil